When Hurricane Sandy engulfed New York a year ago, David Del Valle helped me instead of his mother. Del Valle’s choice was not voluntary.
For the last 10 years, the 48-year-old New Yorker has worked as a doorman at the hotel where my wife, daughter and I stayed after being ordered to evacuate our apartment in lower Manhattan. Eager to hold on to his job, Del Valle stayed at work but worried about his mother — who lives on the city’s Lower East Side, which lost electricity and flooded.
His mother was fine and soon after the storm, I wrote about how Sandy exposed the city’s vast economic inequality. While the better off moved to hotels or simply fled, Del Valle was one of the city’s army of doormen, cooks, maintenance workers and maids who stayed on the job during the storm and had to leave their loved ones to fend for themselves.
“Divides between the rich and the poor are nothing new in New York,” I wrote last year, “but the storm brought them vividly to the surface. There were residents like me who could invest all of their time and energy into protecting their families. And there were New Yorkers who could not.”
In a small sign of how deeply the issue of inequality resonated among Americans, that column went viral and was the most popular piece I wrote last year. In a far larger and more important sign, New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio — who has made easing the city’s inequality the core message of his campaign — is expected to be elected in a landslide next week, potentially by the largest margin in decades.